The Rise and Fall of a Buddy Bill, Part III

 

As noted in my last article, it’s no surprise that Speaker Bill Howell had another version of the anti-dog bill ready last week for his own Rules Committee to consider just as they convened.  In a move that certainly makes a part of the bill a little less ridiculous, the language requiring the blue paint markers on various trees – indicating you prefer dogs to not enter your property – has disappeared, which I’m sure is a great relief for those poor color blind hounds.  While rumor had it that the bill would be restricted to “hunting dogs,” it looks like no one was willing to tackle that language and define exactly what a “hunting dog” was, so we have also been spared that exercise in dictionary writing.

Even with these changes, as I noted last time, this bill remains one of those really bad bills that only gets worse as you attempt to jury rig the language to address interest group concerns.  The more you rig, the worse it gets.

Here’s the new language for those who haven’t seen it:

A. For purposes of this section, a dog shall be deemed to be running at large while it is roaming, running, or self-hunting off the property of its owner or custodian and not under its owner’s or custodian’s immediate control.

B. The governing body of any locality may prohibit the running at large of all or any category of dogs in all or any designated portion of such locality during such months as it may designate. Governing bodies may also require that dogs be confined, restricted, or penned up during such periods. Any person who permits his dog to run at large or remain unconfined, unrestricted, or not penned up shall be deemed to have violated an ordinance adopted pursuant to this subsection.

C. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, general or special, any owner or custodian of a dog who, without permission, allows it to run at large onto the property of another for the purpose of hunting or chasing game and in a manner that unduly burdens the quiet use and enjoyment of the property after receiving appropriate notice by the landowner, his agent, or the lessee that hunting or chasing game with dogs without permission is forbidden on such property shall, in addition to any other available remedy, be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $100 for the first occurrence and $250 per occurrence for a second or subsequent occurrence on such property. Appropriate notice shall be notice given in writing or by placing signs prohibiting dogs where the signs may reasonably be seen.

For purposes of this subsection, there may be no more than one actionable occurrence per owner or custodian within any single 24-hour period, and no dog shall be restrained or otherwise detained by the landowner, lessee, or agent, except for the purpose of prompt identification.

Any penalty provided pursuant to this subsection shall be imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction upon a finding by such court that the owner or custodian was in violation of this subsection and following a summons issued for a violation of this subsection by any animal control officer, conservation police officer, or other law-enforcement officer, or by the court pursuant to a civil action initiated by the affected landowner or lessee. Any civil penalty assessed pursuant to this subsection shall be paid into the treasury of the county or city where such civil action is brought and used for the purpose of defraying the costs of local animal control.

Even after all the changes, let’s look at a hypothetical situation. I have two Labrador Retrievers, both of which are hot on hunting groundhogs.  My yard is fenced, so they rarely get this opportunity, but they have on one or two occasions broken out to hunt the many groundhogs in our neighborhood gardens.  Right now, as HB 1900 is written, my neighbor can call animal control, who can subsequently take me to court and ask a judge to levy $75.00 fine against me, and this costs my neighbor nothing.

Now, to be sure, under this bill, my neighbor will be out of luck unless he can prove he gave me proper notice he did not want my dogs in his yard.  My story, and I’m sticking to it, is that he loves my dogs and wanted them to visit – told me many times, of course.  Besides, after all, if my small female dog snaps the neck of the unsuspecting rodent (as she is likely to do), thereby reliving said neighbor of the destroyer of his garden, have I really caused him to miss the quiet enjoyment of his property?  Hasn’t my dog done him a favor? But I digress. My point is simple – even with these changes, there’s a huge amount of subjective argument in this law.  There are many, many ways to interpret what the term “unduly burden” means, for example. How much of a burden is undue?  Some people will argue a single trespass.  Others more.  It’s an inherently subjective concept.

As I’ve noted before, the bill is just unnecessary, and the paragraphs discussing “running at large” and allow local governments to pass ordinances to bar it seem superfluous. Local government already has the laws in place to retrieve hunting dogs, address fines for stray dogs and loss of livestock. Why do we need yet another complicated layer of law on top of the one that already exists?

This bill is just another reminder, as if we needed any, that Democrats are not the only ones who will try to legislate every aspect of life if you let them.  This is a Republican bill that further complicates the lives of dog owners and land owners.  The members of the Rules Committee will vote on the amended bill tomorrow.

If you care about this issue, let them know – now is the time to make your voices heard.

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